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TRIO SAUTIVET "Partir Revenir" Acousteack 495032
SIMON MAYOR "New Celtic Mandolin" Acoustics CDACS035

And now for something completely different: two CDs which owe a lot to traditional music but which are definitely on the edge of the tradition. Somehow they manage to keep one foot in the traditional camp while the other one is moving with the times - dangerous stuff.

First up is Simon Mayor, a man who has probably done more for the mandolin than anyone else in the UK. He brings classical, country and contemporary influences to bear on traditional tunes from all the usual Celtic countries, plus a New England reel (uncannily like a well-known Irish tune!) and a brace of his own compositions.

As you'd expect on this label, the music is almost totally acoustic. Simon is joined by Frank Kilkelly on guitar, Beryl Marriot on piano, and Hilary James on basses of various kinds. He himself plays half a dozen different stringed instruments. The musicianship of all concerned is outstanding, and the technique is so precise that most tracks have a definite classical feel. However, this is not just another Celtic moody mush CD: the material is quite unusual ("Hush the Cat", "Miss Murray of Abercarney" and a little-known Neil Gow lament represent the Scottish tradition), many of the tunes are up-tempo, and the arrangements are generally crisp and understated. What comes across here is the melody, and there are some lovely ones in the 53 minutes of this recording.

Vive la difference! Trio Sautivet are three young pipers from central France, playing three different sizes of French bagpipes. They play a mixture of traditional and modern French pipe tunes, many of them their own, ranging from dance music to very evocative pieces. The arrangements are simple but very effective, using fourth and fifth harmonies to create a rich, deep and vibrant sound. If you like Moebius, you'll love this. Trio Sautivet have a very tight sound, and their fingerwork is impeccable. There's a medieval quality to the tone of the ensemble pieces, but the music is bang up to date: fresh, unpredictable, and at times humorous. There are also some sparkling solo tracks.

I particularly enjoyed the compositions of Michel Andre: the bransle "Que Faire?" is a great tune well played, and the "Louise A" set really shows what the French pipes are capable of. The 7-minute medley is a piping tour-de-force, and the final tune on the album is a stunner. In fact, it's all good: after 40 minutes of nothing but French pipes, I was still ready for more.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 27 of The Living Tradition magazine.